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Article - Open Access

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Abstract/ Summary

Many modern humor scholars have oversimplified their summaries of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian's views on humor, focusing on the philosophers' cautionary warnings about the rhetorical efficacy and ethics of humor Although the philosophers did write much on the offensive nature of jests, which can be considered illustrative of superiority theory, I describe elements of the incongruity and relief theories of humor motivation in their work. There is evidence to suggest that all four philosophers found humor to be a fitting and effective response to certain exigencies. It is more accurate to summarize their views thus: Humor has the potential to be a powerful tool of persuasion, but like any potent weapon (discursive or non-discursive) it should be used with caution.